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SaGa Frontier 2 - Review

CapItalIzIng LetTers Just SeEms to Work SomeTimeS

By Anna Marie "Paws" Whitehead


Review Breakdown
   Battle System7.0
   Gameplay8.0
   Music6.0
   Originality9.0
   Plot9.0
   Replay Value5.0
   Sound7.0
   Visuals9.0
   DifficultyMedium
Last 2 Levels: Impossible
   Time to Complete25-30 hours 
Overall
7.5
Criteria

SF2 Logo

   Though Square said they were finished with the SaGa series, lo and behold here is a review for the 8th game in the series. Though by different names, the series has progressed on. First a Fantasy, then a Romancing, and now a Frontier. A frontier that is a world to explore through the lives of 2 very interesting storylines.

   Levelling up in SF2 is not done by the traditional leveling system. Characters do not have levels, but their prowess in certain weapons and magical arts does. Certain people are better at certain arts, and they will have a small plus (+) sign beside the weapon/element in their equip screens (you may equip both arts and weapons). Anyone may equip any weapon and any art, but the proficiency they may use the weapon at depends on their particular level for that weapon. As for Spell Arts, they require 2 prerequisites to work. One, the correct level (each art whether based on a spell or weapon has a level) and having something equipped (whether armor or weapon) with that same element attached to it. How you learn weapon and spell arts is a little complicated itself. When a person uses a weapon they gain an unknown amount of experience with that weapon; you get more if you kill an enemy, even more if you end the battle. Weapons slowly level up. When you've reached the right level, using a basic art will trigger an idea (a new art). A small lightbulb appears over the person's head and they perform the new art. This art is now useable by all provided they have it equipped. There is also 'sparking', another way to learn different attacks and spells. Simply put, you use one advanced art over and over again and it eventually leads to the discovery of another art. It is difficult to tell which art will spawn which other art, and how many times you need to use an attack to get there.


Boss Battle
Boss Battle  


   The battle system is certainly unique, but it has some major drawbacks. First, the instructions do not give a very clear idea of how the system works, so you have to just play the game for a little while. There are actually 2 different battle modes; often you may choose between them. The first is battle one on one with the enemy and of course one member of your party. In this mode the enemies have a lower HP and different attacks. You may choose anyone in your current party to fight. Depending on what weapons they have, certain options come up. You choose 4 actions to execute during your turn. Depending on the choice, it may cost nothing, WP (weapon power, which is a person's ability to use weapons) or SP (spell power, which is a person's ability to use magic). These individual moves may be strung together to create a combo including 2 to all 4 moves. I did not manage to pull a 4-stringed attack by the end of the game but there are supposed to be several. The other form of battle is a team battle, where however many people are in your party (one to four) battle against a group of enemies of one or more. These enemies have set attacks, as do you (called arts), and they are generally stronger, have better moves, and are more prolific. Many times the screen begins with one enemy facing the party but may grow to three, four or five enemies which 'drop in' from all angles. Each person will have a change to use arts they have equipped. Battles run as follows: you choose all the attacks you wish to use and which enemy to use them on (if the enemy is defeated the attack is moved to the net enemy). Then the round begins. Characters whether enemy or ally go in order of their speed. Before each round in either combat modes you have the option of using one of your life points to completely heal the character. However, LP has it's limits. Each player has only so many LP and once they have 0, they will fall and be unable to rise even by magic. Some enemies' attacks drain an LP, so it's better to leave a few in reserve.


   The speed of gameplay varies widely. Some events are merely 2 minutes of text, others may be an hour or more of fierce fighting. Once you get a hold of the battle system (which took about 2-3 good hours of play for me), things will run a little faster. Overall, it's rather choppy, but does give the game a good pace. As for how the game flows, it is different than the usual game. Similar FFT, you do not wander around a huge map but there are only certain points you may enter. SG2 makes this even more specific by taking away *any* walking. You begin the game with 2 choices, and the choices slowly begin to change and expand as you do these levels. Once you choose an event, you cannot return to the world map until you have completed it, so I would suggest multiple save spots. Within these events is where all the moving takes place. Dungeons must be travelled and many times you explore cities but never walk between the two. For those who enjoy levelling up, this may not be your game as often there is no way to heal, adding another level of difficulty to the game.


Background
Speaking of Fading into the background...  


   The music in the game just sort of faded into the background. It was good, but it didn't make the game any better or wow me enough to go buy an album of it. At many times in the game it was simply nicer to mute the volume and turn on a CD.


   The originality of this game must be commended. The dual storyline has been used in several other games of course but unlike many others a point of crossing is not apparent until near the end, when a few people from one side begin to show up in the other person's missions. More originality comes in during the battle system, and also the passage of real time. It is very thrilling to see a person, later on in the game and go "Wow, I knew their father when he was just starting out. I remember that, because I played it" The flow of time also helps to move old characters out and new characters in, giving you a fresh perspective of the game every once in a while. It also gives a touch of realism to the game.


   The Plot is very good. While it moves a bit slowly in Will's scenario, it moves at a very enjoyable pace during Gustave's section. The plot also opens up to several side quests that fill out a few holes that are left amongst the normal story. Overall, the story was captivating but one that would become redundant if told over again.


Scene
Beatiful Scenes Abound  


   The replay value of SF2 is rather low. Once you've beaten the insanely hard final levels, there is a huge feeling of accomplishment, a "Finally!" moment, and then the game goes in the case and collects dust. I would never play the game again simply because I can't stand not finishing an RPG once I started it and would hate to have to slave at those levels again. Once you've gone through the storyline it doesn't become that interesting anymore because the cliffhanging feeling of what is going to happen next is simply absent. Unless you're looking for rare or special arts, it's not really worth doing over.


   The graphics were a very appealing aniime style for the characters and beautiful water color painting type backgrounds. The backgrounds were done beautifully; colorful enough to give a real representation of the world but muted enough not to interfere with the concentration on the main part of the game.


Town
Visit Each Town Several Times  


   The difficulty level was twofold, as was the story. Will's first quest is rather difficult simply because you have no idea what you're doing, and most of Gustave's levels are plot and little fighting. Overall, it was balances out (Will's side being almost complete action, Gustave's side being almost complete storyline), except for when it comes to the end 2 levels. They are nest to impossible and require an insane amount of luck. Also disappointing was the final boss in Will's quest. Simply put, before you can even get to him he grows stronger and there is no way to stop this from happening. Alas, his introductory form is the strongest, which may sound like it makes the fight easier but it does not as the dungeon ahead of his there are up to 8 other bosses.


   The length of the game was good at 25-30 hours. Because Will's quest contains so much fighting, by the time you get to 30 hours you want it to just basically be over with. Aside from the time required to get perfect luck on the final levels, the game runs rather smoothly. The trick is to swap between Gustave's and Will's quests regularly so that the timelines stay neck to neck. This also divides up the time you merely spend beating up enemies on Will's side.


   In conclusion, SF2 was a good game. If I had it to do over again I'd still buy it, but I'd be glad to give it away when done, since there's no real reason to keep it unless you collect. It's more a 7-day or 14-day rental than a buy.

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